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FOOD AND DRINK

2 MIN

Bottle Shop: 5 Grapes You Probably Don’t Know (But Should)

There's an exciting world to be discovered beyond the familiar Cabernets and Chardonnays

If you’re looking to break out of an oenological rut, take heart: There is a whole world of wine to explore beyond the usual suspects. Just about everyone is familiar with certain “international varieties” of grapes – the Chardonnays and Cabernet Sauvignons of the world – but what about Grüner Veltliner? No? How about Petite Sirah? From aromatic Albariño to muscular Petit Sirah, here are five wine grapes you should get to know better. (Prices are from Ontario, and links lead to LCBO product listing.)

Paco & Lola Albariño 2015
$17.95 (350041)

Albariñois a thick-skinned grape that is well suited to the wet climate of Spain’s Galicia region, and northern Portugal (where it’s called Alvarinho). Paco & Lola’s stylish bottle is a great example of why sommeliers are increasingly pouring this unique white by the glass. It’s clean, juicy and balanced with flavours of citrus and pear, and a crispy, stony finish. Serve with ceviche, steamed mussels, or the classic tapa of sizzling garlic shrimp.

Loimer Langenlois Grüner Veltliner 2015
$21.95 (142240)

Austrian Grüner Veltlineris another popular by-the-glass white at fashionable restaurants because it ticks all the right boxes for trendy sommeliers: it’s Old World, cool climate, high-acid, food-friendly and terrific value. This entry-level label from Loimer is textbook Grüner – it’s lean as a yoga instructor with aromas of fresh-picked apples, zesty lime flavours, and tongue-tingling acidity. Pair with asparagus, wiener schnitzel, or take-out sushi.

Vinum Africa Chenin Blanc 2015
$15.95 (739995)

Chenin Blanc hails from France’s Loire Valley, where it’s made into everything from bone-dry whites to dessert wines. In South Africa, Chenin is the most widely planted grape, and it’s generally turned into dry table wines of tremendous value. From the Stellenbosch region, a portion of this wine was fermented in oak barrels, which adds a hint of smoke and spice. It’s a full-bodied white with tropical peach flavours and balancing acidity. Try with smoked salmon, barbecued chicken or fish and chips.

La Posta Armando Bonarda 2015
$14.95 (261586)

Italian immigrants brought Bonarda to Argentina, where it has become the second most planted grape varietal after Malbec. (In France, it’s called Douce Noir, and in California, it’s known as Charbono.) It’s often used in blends, but on its own it yields cheap and chuggable wines like La Posta’s juicy red, tasting of cassis and black licorice. Dressed in purple and gold, this bottle is ready to party. Pour with pepperoni pizza, seared flank steak or a wedge of manchego cheese.

Ravenswood Vintners Blend Petite Sirah 2013
$18.95 (161554)

Petite Sirah is a cross-pollination of Syrah and Peloursin, and was discovered by French botanist François Durif in the 1860s. The grape has taken well to the California sunshine, where it has been grown since the late 19th century. Ironically, there is nothing petite about it. The grape yields “yuge” reds, like this bad boy from Ravenswood. Expect chewy dark berry flavours, juicy acidity, and some tannic grit on the finish. Decant for two hours before enjoying with a bloody slab of red meat.


Published Tuesday, March 28th 2017

Header image credit: Clusters of Chenin Blanc. Shutterstock

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